Michael Gira's Swans flock together but in constant motion
Michael Gira has been making gorgeously abrasive music as Swans on and off since 1982, when he was part of New York City's No Wave scene.
The brooding singer/composer took a long Swans hiatus after 1996's cinematic Soundtracks for the Blind to start the shimmering, acoustic Angels of Light ensemble. He then shuttered Light and combined the dark Swans' and more sun-dappled Angels' sounds for 2010's My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky and the rebirth of Swans 2.0.
Now it's time for another change.
"This has been the longest that I have had the same group of Swans," says the deep-voiced Gira, right before the release of The Glowing Man, his band's newest album. "These guys are great. I am continuing onward as Swans, too, after this tour. Just not with the same membership. Or, maybe, some of the same people - who knows?
"I think we're exhausted in the sense that we know each other's scent very well. I can't see how to move forward with this same scenario. I just want it to be way more low-key after this."
Whatever that means going forward for Gira ("maybe tours that don't last for two years?"), being "more low key" leaves a lot of room for dangerous diversity, considering how amped and dramatic Swans has been since 2010.
At over two hours long, with most of its songs nearing 10 minutes each, Glowing Man feels like a logical conclusion, an all-or-nothing approach to epochal rock, filled with ritual magic, furious droning, sun-bursting noise, and delicate ambient twitches.
"The songs here morphed with these guys," says Gira of his crew. "Some were started on an old acoustic. Some, their seeds were planted in a live setting and we just allowed them to grow and gradually shift through improvisation."
As for the showy qualities of The Glowing Man himself, Gira calls him a "sort of skull-exploding character who I have used as a secret animal. It, like everything we do, draws me in and torments me simultaneously. Ultimately he leads me into some sort of revolution."
The somber mix of noise and tenderness on Glowing Man is in league with everything that Swans has been since its start, yet it's remarkably unique to that canon. Here's to hoping Swans 3.0 is just as bruising and innovative.
Swans, with Okkyung Lee, 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden St., $20, 215-232-2100, utphilly.com.